When the Dallas Cowboys were ready to make their selection at No. 17 overall in Round 1 of the 2020 NFL Draft on Thursday night, owner, president, and general manager Jerry Jones could hear history rhyme.
The co-captain for the 1964 Arkansas Razorbacks national championship football team had recently lost a teammate from that squad in Jerry Lamb. The Levelland, Texas, native had the second-most receiving yards for the Hogs that year with 213, and tied for a team-high two touchdown catches.
"We couldn't have won a national championship without him, and he was a wonderful player," Jones told reporters on Thursday night after the first round of the draft.
Despite all of the mock drafts the Cowboys had run in the spring, they never had one where Oklahoma Sooners receiver CeeDee Lamb was available at No. 17 overall. In fact, the other receivers with that talent, Alabama's Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy, were all gone in Dallas' simulations.
The Cowboys, by their own accounts, were going to have to reach for a receiver, if they wanted to use their first-round selection to add to the skill of Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup.
When the Cowboys were at 17, so was Lamb. But so was LSU edge rusher L'Kavon Chaisson, who could help beef up their pass rush. So was safety Xavier McKinney, who could help shore up centerfield in their defense. So was TCU cornerback Jeff Gladney, who would be an excellent replacement for Byron Jones, who left in free agency.
The Cowboys didn't predict the sixth-best player on their big board being available at No. 17 overall. In fact, according to Jones, the rest of the NFL may have believed Dallas wouldn't take a receiver, which is why no one jumped them to No. 16 and haggled with the Atlanta Falcons for the spot preceding the Cowboys' selection.
Jones added a few words before making the selection, and his teammate, who died at the age of 78 last December, was on his mind.
"I said, 'In honor of my great friend who had just passed this year, we're going to have his namesake come on here and wear No. 88 just like Michael [Irvin] and Dez [Bryant] and those guys,'" Jones said. "And we've got ourselves a receiver."
The Cowboys haven't officially announced whether they will dole out No. 88 to Lamb, but Jones is hopeful the Fort Bend Foster High School product will bring something more to the team than the late Lamb's jersey number.
Said Jones: "Let me tell you one thing: if he's got the compete and heart of that Jerry Lamb, he'll be bad to the bone."
The Cowboys' plan for Lamb is to play inside and outside and to move him around to create what coach Mike McCarthy called "favorable match-ups." With Lamb replacing Randall Cobb, who left in free agency, in the slot, the former Sooner ought to be able to integrate smoothly into offensive coordinator Kellen Moore's scheme.
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